Wednesday, February 21, 2018

More About the Winter Garden

The garden has changed enough since the last tour that it's time to do another update. First the good stuff. The favas and Golden Sweet snow peas are coming along nicely. The peas had just been recently set out as of the last tour and they were sitting under the protection of cloches. My experiment with starting the favas in paper pots seems to be working, they seem to be quite vigorous and most of them are producing tillers (branching out). The peas look spindly but that just how the Golden Sweet peas are.

The cloches in the newly installed cages are protecting seedlings of Royal snow peas which I started in paper pots at the end of January and set out last week.

Royal Snow Pea
Also in the cage are newly set out seedlings of Little Crunch snow peas which were also started in paper pots. I had to get them into the garden more quickly than I usually do because I was going to be away for the long weekend and I didn't have a place to put the tray of emerging seedlings where they either wouldn't dry out or be at the mercy of weather and rodents.  All but one of them are poking through the soil now.
Emerging Little Crunch Snap Pea
Extra hardware cloth around the cage. More on that later...

The cold hardy baccatum peppers were unfazed by the 30ºF temperatures the other night. Oooh, but look at those tomato vines in the back. Time to go!

Joe's Giant Aji Amarillo
Mareko Fana peppers are annuum peppers but are also remarkably hardy. Plants and peppers are just fine today.

Mareko Fana
 Nasturtiums, on the other hand, decidedly do not like being stuck in the deep freeze.

Frost Zapped Nasturtiums
Across the way the frost tolerant Frieda Worlds snow peas were also unfazed, both the plants and pea pods are just fine.
Frieda Worlds Snow Peas
I do believe it is time to let the cover crop in that bed out from beneath the protective cover.

I'm not doing the tour in the usual bed order because, well, crud, I just don't want to face the worst of it yet. So, the winter spinach is poking along. I haven't harvested any of it yet but something has been working on it. I think it was cutworms so it sprayed it with Spinosad a while back and the nibbling seems to have stopped. Speedy arugula is zipping into seed production mode and I may just let it do it's thing so that I can renew my seed stock.

New seedlings are sharing space in the cage.

Maybe you can see them here. That's Georgian Flatleaf parsley in the back taking it's good old sweet time germinating, it's been a month. And maybe you can make out a few seed leaves of the Little Hero baby spinach. I started those in paper pots and had the same dilemma as with the snap peas.

Over in this corner of the bed is a patch of Cilician parsley which not long ago was keeping company with some old Batavia broccoli plants which were recently tucked into the compost bin.

And this section of the bed used to have another cage surrounding winter radishes, Petite Snap Green peas, and carrots. It was time for all of them to go. The cardboard protects the soil until I can get around to growing something. This bed will be filled with mostly curcurbits this year. It's too early to get them going but too late to grow something that will produce a harvest before I need to plant the curcurbits. I should just fill it up with a quick cover crop of mustard greens. The other corner of the bed still has the runts of the garden taking up space and not doing much else - celery, Brussels sprouts, and kalettes. The compost bin has room but I haven't had the time.

Ok. Now for the part of the tour that I've been avoiding. Bed #3. Bleah. This corner used to have some really lovely, healthy, growing, just starting to show their stuff kohlrabi. I pulled them out.

This spot used to have some new Batavia broccoli plants that were just starting to form their main heads. The mustard was supposed to be temporary company for the broccoli.

Here's what's left of a just starting to develop head of Pixie cabbage. It seems that voles don't much like napa cabbage. Just beyond the napa cabbage were a couple of Tronchuda Beira plants just getting to be large enough to harvest from but the voles started in before I did.

For a while it seemed like the voles didn't like chard.

I guess they were just eating their favorites first.

My futile attempt at stuffing one the exits of their vast network of runs.

They just tunnel right under the bottoms of the cages and the hardware cloth barriers. And that's why there's more hardware cloth surrounding the cages that I just set up in the other bed. Damn critters. Damn, damn, damn.....

Carrot tops and fennel are back on the vole menu again. At least they were until I pulled all of them out of the garden yesterday. The carrots were wonky anyway which you can see next Monday.

Now it seems like snow peas are a yummy vole treat.

Young mustard plants, oh yum!

Oh, guess what, here's some damage that I can't blame on the voles. These snow peas didn't like the freezing cold the other night. My fault because I was too tired to get out the frost cloth. Whatever, the voles would have gotten around to eating them anyway.

So, I'll end this post on a happier note. Our holiday weekend away was spent getting to the top of a local peak that Dave and I have been wanting to get to for the past few years. It wasn't possible to even attempt the trip for the past 1 1/2 years because Ventana Double Cone is right at the center of the area burned by the Soberanes Fire in 2016. The area was off limits to hiking from July of 2016 until this past November. This past weekend was our chance. It's quite a trek to get to the summit. The closest trailhead is 15 miles from the top and a 30 mile dayhike is not something that we wanted to tackle so that meant at least a couple of nights backpacking. The other challenge to getting to the top is that most of the trails getting there are in very poor condition because of the fire and then the extremely wet winter that followed not to mention a lack of trail maintenance work for I don't know how many years. Just finding the trail at times was difficult and we probably wouldn't have made it without GPS to keep us on track. 

I'm so happy to say that we accomplished our objective, there I am on the summit last Sunday afternoon. It's difficult to see in the photo, but just next to my left leg there's a notch in the ridge that is called la Ventana, or the Window, and that is the distinctive feature that gives the Ventana Wilderness its name. And just behind my derrière is Pico Blanco, another distinctive peak in the area which we've summited twice.

The photo below shows the second summit of Ventana Double Cone which we didn't even attempt to climb. Beyond the cone to the right is Uncle Sam Mountain. If you had x-ray vision and could see through US Mountain you might be able to see my garden 14.5 miles beyond. It's about an hour around and about drive from there to the trailhead...

Below is Uncle Sam Mountain viewed from my garden on Tuesday morning. There's snow on that peak. The weather did a quick change on us a couple of hours before we finished out hike back to camp Sunday evening. Oh boy, what fun (hah!) hiking in the dark, on a crappy trail, in the falling snow. We obviously made it safely back to camp.

And look what we got to enjoy the next morning, a lovely snowy scene. That's Pico Blanco again as the backdrop for our snug little tent.

So that's the latest from my garden, thanks for stopping by.


  1. It looks more like our spring garden than winter. :-)

    1. That's one of the joys of gardening in a mild climate. The downside is that the pests stay active ALL YEAR!

  2. I love that last picture. Camping in a flat place with a great view. Big tent for backpacking. Do you cook in it? Gosh darn voles. What next? Locusts? My nasturtium seedlings survived OK so their limit must be between 30 and 32.

    1. The tent is not as big as it looks, it fits 2 sleeping bags snugly with not a lot of room for much else. The rain fly creates two vestibules, one on either side which is where your gear must spend the night unless you want to snuggle with it. The views went both ways in that spot because we were on a ridge - sunset and Pico Blanco on one side and the lights of Salinas on the other.

  3. Well jeez. You might have to start raising gopher snakes along with vegetables if all this damage keeps up. :(

  4. It is wild that the baccatums took the frost better than that snow pea! Voles, yechh, what pests. I'm sure at times you must think you're running a nature preserve instead of a garden! I'm going to try your trick with starting peas in paper pots this spring. It's still a bit early for that here though.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I value your insights and feedback.